NRC opens water distribution test facility

Volume 17, Number 1, March 2012

Safe and reliable drinking water distribution systems are essential for the health and prosperity of Canadian cities and communities. The purification of source water at the treatment plant is critical but insufficient, since water can deteriorate in quality as it travels through old and deteriorated pipe networks.

As part of its ongoing efforts to help municipalities employ innovative technologies to address their infrastructure responsibilities, the NRC Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure Research (NRC-CSIR) has developed laboratory facilities and analytical capabilities for testing water quality.  The key element of the technology is a state-of-the-art pipe loop system capable of conducting pilot-scale experiments that mimic drinking water distribution systems.

This automated pilot system simulates the hydraulic, water quality and operational characteristics of an actual distribution system. It provides the ability to study water quality deterioration in old pipes, determine the mechanisms of deterioration, and provide solutions to maintain the water quality in existing distribution systems. It can also be used to test and develop drinking water treatment processes, advanced infrastructure materials and innovative monitoring techniques.

Pilot system features

The main features of the pilot system are as follows:

  • Automated control of hydraulic parameters, online sensors and data-logging.
  • Test pipe sections can be changed to assess the effect of different materials age, degree of corrosion, and location.
  • Ports for studying lead and copper, biofilms or surface characterization.
  • Capability to study the biological control, disinfectant dynamics and fate of pathogens at different hydraulic and water quality conditions.

Partnership Opportunities

NRC-CSIR is seeking partners to collaborate in research to develop and validate new solutions using the pilot facility. By partnering with NRC-CSIR, researchers, firms, utilities and municipalities can advance their knowledge and understanding of water distribution systems.

Using the pipe loop system, several projects can be undertaken including:

  • Development, validation and assessment of various online monitoring technologies under hydraulic conditions representative of drinking water distribution systems;
  • Testing, calibration and evaluation of newly developed technologies for water quality monitoring in distribution systems (for example, prototype sensor packages for remote online monitoring) under realistic scenarios;
  • Development, calibration and verification of water quality models for planning distribution system operations for improved quality and security;
  • Selection of inherently safer construction materials for renewal planning of distribution infrastructure under realistic hydraulic and water quality conditions;
  • Development of water quality criteria for safe operation and management of distribution infrastructure.

For more information

Contact Syed Imran at 306-780-8660 or